In this WSB newsfilm clip dated July 2, 1974, a crowd of mourners and observers gather around Ebenezer Baptist Church for the viewing of the body of Alberta Williams King, mother of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as her body lies in state at Ebenezer Baptist Church the day before her funeral. A large crowd is gathered in the Auburn Avenue neighborhood surrounding the church; members of the King family, including Coretta Scott King and Christine King Farris are seen in attendance. The clip's audio track is comprised of background noise captured from the event.
The clip begins with a shot of a hearse parked in front of the entrance of the Ebenezer Baptist Church; a stream of spectators and mourners are cordoned off on the sidewalk by the church. A close-up shot shows an unidentified African American man taking photographs with an instant camera. Onlookers have also gathered across the street as they observe activities at the church. Throughout the clip, footage of mourners and observers lined up in front of the church and on sidewalks along Auburn Avenue are interspersed with the activities taking place in front of the
church. A police officer adjusts the cordon separating the crowd from the open church doors, while church ushers dressed in suits wait in front of the church entrance. Next, a police motorcycle escort leads several limousines down Auburn Avenue to park in front of Ebenezer Baptist Church; the limousines are then guided by church attendants into parking spots. Several members of the King family are helped out of the automobiles by ushers, including Christine King Farris, elder sister of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and daughter of Alberta Williams King. Farris is dressed in white and is wearing dark glasses; she is holding onto a large white purse. As she makes her way towards the church entrance, she grasps the hands of two children; presumably her children Isaac Farris, Jr. and Angela
Farris. After she enters the church, a large crowd of people follow behind her. The camera then turns its focus to the Ebenezer Baptist Church sign; the clip breaks, and then continues with another shot of the church sign.
Next, the camera pans across Auburn Avenue, where a large crowd of onlookers are lined up across the street from Ebenezer Baptist Church. Large crowds of people are gathered on both sides of the street, and traffic is blocked by a hearse in the center of the road. The clip jumps to a shot of an usher carrying a large bouquet of white flowers towards the church entrance. The clip breaks again, and an unidentified member of the King family's party weeps as she is led by two ushers to a limousine. Next, in the foreground of the shot, an elderly woman is led to the same vehicle just as Christine King Farris exits the church in the background. The clip breaks to a shot of Coretta Scott King leaving the church, accompanied by her sons Dexter King and Martin Luther King III; she is followed by her two daughters Yolanda King and Bernice King. An unidentified African American man in an orange shirt extends his hand to her; she shakes it, then she waves to the crowd and seats herself in the car with the rest of her family. The clip breaks, and an usher opens the door to a limousine for another unidentified female member of the King family's party. This is followed by several shots of the crowd surrounding the church. Next, an African American police officer conducting traffic on Auburn Avenue instructs the camera operator to get out of the street; he then motions for several vehicles in the procession to pass. The clip breaks again; the next shot is of several pallbearers carrying a white casket out of the front of the church. There is an abrupt shot of several men standing in front of a hearse; a large floral arrangement is propped in front of its open back doors. The camera jumps to another shot of members of the crowd, then to Christine King Farris exiting the church with members of her family, and stepping into a vehicle (off-camera). There are several more shots of the crowd, followed by the pallbearers placing the white casket into the back of the hearse. Onlookers press their faces against the windows of the hearse to look at the casket; this is followed by a shot of the casket in the back of the hearse. Next, a man closes the door to the back of the hearse. The casket can be seen from the back window, and is framed by a white curtain. The clip ends with a shot of the sign hanging over the front doorway of Ebenezer Baptist Church.
On June 30, 1974, during Sunday services at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Alberta Williams King was fatally shot by Marcus Chenault, a twenty-three-year-old African American man from Ohio who claimed "all Christians are my enemies" shortly after the murder. Chenault also killed the church deacon, Edward Boykin, and injured another member of the congregation. A retired church organist at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Alberta Williams King had returned to play for a reunion of former church choir members, and was leading a rendition of "The Lord's Prayer" when she was shot. In her honor, Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson ordered the flags on all Atlanta city buildings to be flown at half-mast. A memorial service was held in Sisters Chapel at Spelman College at 7:00 pm, on July 2, where Morehouse president emeritus Dr. Benjamin Mays delivered the eulogy. Her body was then returned back to Ebenezer Baptist Church to lie in state for public viewing. Alberta Williams King's funeral was held the next morning at Ebenezer Baptist Church on July 3; U.S. representative from Georgia Andrew Young officiated at the service. Funeral attendees included members of the King family, second lady of the United States Betty Ford, Georgia governor Jimmy Carter, and Mayor Jackson. She was buried in the same double mausoleum at Atlanta's South-View cemetery that had previously held her son Martin Luther King, Jr.'s remains.
Former title "WSB-TV newsfilm clip of crowds watching as the body of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is moved from Southview Cemetery to the King Center in Atlanta, Georgia, 1974 July 2." Further research shows that the event taking place is for the viewing of the body of Alberta Williams King, mother of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as her body lies in state at Ebenezer Baptist Church the day before her funeral. The King family made careful arrangements to move Martin Luther King's body privately. Several transfers were conducted before daylight, and without the presence of cameras. The first of these transfers, which involved moving his remains from South-View Cemetery to a lot adjacent to Ebenezer Baptist Church, took place on January 13, 1970. These events are described in Christine Farris King's 2009 book Through It All: Reflections On My Life, My Family, and My Faith. New York: Atria Books, pp. 137-139.
Title supplied by cataloger.
The Civil Rights Digital Library received support from a National Leadership Grant for Libraries awarded to the University of Georgia by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for digital conversion and description of the WSB-TV Newsfilm Collection.
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Cite as: WSB-TV newsfilm clip of crowds waiting outside of Ebenezer Baptist Church as the body of Alberta Williams King, mother of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., lies in state, Atlanta, Georgia, 1974 July 2, WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 0051, 54:30/59:37, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia.